I was six years old when my family moved from Israel to the United States. I grew up in Orange County, California with my parents and younger sister, Eden. Eden is currently serving as a lone soldier in the IDF, as a combat soldier in "Aryot HaYarden." I was also a combat soldier and served in "Oketz," the IDF's Elite Anti-Terrorist K-9 Unit.
My senior year of high school I had applied to colleges just like everybody else and was accepted to one of my top choice schools. I was so excited to find out that I got in. The summer before college I came to Israel for a month through NCSY. It was an amazing trip. I got to meet so many people and see so many places. After I came back to the United States I thought about the trip and thought maybe I should do something different and not go to school right away and go to the army instead.
"The thing about this trip is that it wasn’t like trips in the past where I came to see family. On this trip we saw so many amazing places and what Israel really is. I kind of just saw things I hadn’t seen before and it was such a great environment. It was such a positive atmosphere, I felt like I hadn’t seen or learned about all of these things on trips before. It was different."
I made the decision to postpone studying and come serve in the IDF instead. In November 2012 I made Aliyah. I spent six months at Ulpan on Kibbutz Ein HaShofet. I already spoke Hebrew though I didn’t feel my Hebrew was very good. My parents spoke Hebrew at home but I usually answered back in English. My Hebrew definitely wasn’t as strong then as it is today. It really improved in the army.
After I finished Ulpan I drafted right away into the IDF. On my draft date I still didn't have a specific job so I sat with the officer at the enlistment center and he gave me some options. I ended up going to a job that I wasn't happy with. I decided I had to switch jobs to become a combat soldier.
"I didn’t mind signing on to serve another year in order to do something meaningful for the country and for me."
I was told I would be a combat soldier in the Karkal unit. When I arrived at the base for training and saw there were tryouts for Oketz there, I decided I would try out. About halfway through the tryouts I saw what was going on around me and decided I had to finish this tryout. I did finish and was accepted to Oketz.
My training in Oketz was about a year and a month. It was extremely challenging. We did a lot of physical training in addition to the mental preparation. You need to reach a certain level to be able to finish.
"I also struggled with the Hebrew. It wasn’t easy. All of the lessons were hard for me because of the Hebrew, even the classes that were simple for the Israelis. Still, however hard it was and tired I was, I was happy to come back to base every Sunday. I completed the training and was awarded my commander's pin at the final ceremony."
Female combat soldiers in Oketz work specifically with dogs who sniff out for explosives as well as with search and rescue dogs. I was one of the first people from my class to pass the testing and go on missions. I worked all over the West Bank with every different unit.
"It meant missions night after night after night. It was really challenging and I loved it."
It was amazing being able to reach a certain level with my dog. I got my dog when she was two. I was her first owner. We really started from a low level and got somewhere very high. I can't share my dogs name because she is still in service. She was very, very good and very young so I knew she would keep working even after my release. I always check up to see she's okay and doing well. I think I'll go visit her sometime this month.
"I loved my army service. It was challenging and hard and tiring and everything people experience in the army, but it was also so fulfilling."
I started the Wings program before my release from the army with the pre-release workshop. There I met my advisor, Maytal. I really appreciate the meetings I have had with her. Maytal has helped me a lot.
I also did the diagnostic testing which helped me decide what path would suit me. I met with Tzvika, the financial advisor a few times. He really helped me! I had an issue I had been struggling with for a few weeks and with just a few phone calls he helped me resolve it.
"Wings gave me someone to help me figure out my plans for the future and school and how to live in Israel post army service."
In October I started studying Business at the IDC in Herzliya. I do want to travel like most Israelis do post army, but it was important to me to start school. I hope to travel to South America between semesters. I support myself financially so I am trying to save up for that.